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The original quote from Franklin was about liberty not freedom. A suttle but vitally important distinction as freedom requires security where liberty does not. If you sacrifice freedom for security you still at least have security, as in a despotism, but if you sacrifice security for freedom you have neither. Conversely if you sacrifice liberty for security you have less liberty without any increase in security just resulting in a net loss.

This is perhaps, strangely enough, the most contentious comment I have placed on HN. Last night when the comment was fresh it was quickly up voted at least 7 times. This morning I awoke to the comment down voted back to it’s original 1 karma. I am unclear as to how this comment is so polarized.

Here is the Franklin quote (I encourage you to read the whole article): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/201...

I always thought the two words are synonyms. (That belief somehow survived decades of philosophical reading, media, and more than a few moral/political philosophy courses.) Here in Australia, liberty sounds like a USA word. We talk of civil liberties etc, but not liberty on its own like that. That sounds 18th C and/or estadounidense.

Your distinction sounds like (what I learnt as) Berlin's negative and positive liberty:

"Negative liberty is the absence of obstacles, barriers or constraints. One has negative liberty to the extent that actions are available to one in this negative sense. Positive liberty is the possibility of acting — or the fact of acting — in such a way as to take control of one's life and realize one's fundamental purposes. While negative liberty is usually attributed to individual agents, positive liberty is sometimes attributed to collectivities, or to individuals considered primarily as members of given collectivities."

"The idea of distinguishing between a negative and a positive sense of the term ‘liberty’ goes back at least to Kant, and was examined and defended in depth by Isaiah Berlin in the 1950s and ’60s."


That article goes on:

"Many authors prefer to talk of positive and negative freedom. This is only a difference of style, and the terms ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ are normally used interchangeably by political and social philosophers. Although some attempts have been made to distinguish between liberty and freedom (Pitkin 1988; Williams 2001; Dworkin 2011), generally speaking these have not caught on."

Ah that's what I thought!

Also, referring to your other comment, if a "despot can do whatever he wants to you or to your family", like disappear you in the night, and it's not a loss of security, I'm not sure what you mean by 'security'.

In despotism, you do not have security either - the despot can do whatever he wants to you or to your family.

That is a loss of freedom, not security. Compare that to living entirely on your own in the wilderness where you will enjoy maximal freedom with no security from people or nature or starvation.

That distinction is why, in history, non-civilized people find civilization abhorrent and why other people would choose to live under a despot opposed to living on their own. In the ancient world people were not friendly to the idea of abandoning freedoms for class distinctions but once they had it they were not willing to sacrifice personal security or quality of life increases for risk of death and starvation.

That is why people claim freedom isn’t free, because many people, even now, are frequently ready to abandon freedoms for increased security opposed to the extra effort required to increase both.

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